Virtual Retreat for Plastic Partnership-Building

When the COVID-19 outbreak nearly derailed an in-person retreat, Meridian mobilized to shift the meeting online—helping two organizations identify concrete ideas for partnership.

Plastic waste is a major environmental problem on land, in rivers, and in our ocean—and many organizations are taking action. These respective efforts could be a source of conflict: organizations might compete for similar funding or influence, or jockey to position themselves as providing the most successful solution. But rather than face off in competition, two major environmental organizations decided to embrace the similarities between their plastic waste programs. They called on Meridian to help them come together in collaboration. Over the course of several months, we fostered links between the two organizations: helping them open lines of communication, identify shared goals, and create a roadmap for partnership.

Just days ahead of a critical in-person retreat, restrictions due to COVID-19 forced us to shift the meeting online. We jumped into high gear to repurpose our agenda for the virtual environment—without sacrificing any of our original objectives. We reshuffled timing and added breaks to adapt to the needs of participants on video calls. We called on our colleagues to help facilitate virtual breakout groups. We created compelling visuals and used interactive online whiteboarding tools so participants could brainstorm ideas for collaboration.

Our fluency with virtual conferencing tools helped us avoid the usual hiccups of online meetings. Our experience designing and facilitating virtual collaboration allowed us to seamlessly transfer an in-person meeting to a virtual setting. The two organizations walked away from the meeting with a deeper understanding of each other’s programs and a prioritized list of activities for coordination and collaboration. They solidified their vision and goals for partnership while getting to know their counterparts across organizations. The successful retreat underpinned an alignment strategy that will guide their ongoing efforts.

I was part of a two-day virtual workshop that involved another organization and Meridian Institute’s team managed the sessions with great skill. They included compelling visuals, additional online interactive tools, and ensured the agenda allowed for maximum discussion and brainstorming. I highly recommend working with them for virtual facilitation needs.
—Participant